In His Own Image and Likeness: Humanity, Divinity, and Monotheism

By W. Randall Garr | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER THREE
GEN 11: 7

The final example of nonliteral

appears in Gen 11: 7. This text, though, is different from the others. In the other clauses, the subject of the core argument is referentially clear. But in Gen 11: 7, the subject is referentially unclear, at least at first blush. The subject is divine, yet its plural number, or internal composition, is not explained.

3.1. The structure of Gen 11: 7 is familiar.

Let's let us go down and confound their language.

The utterance is introduced by nonliteral

. The suasive particle is followed asyndetically by a plural cohortative. A second, conjoined cohortative follows the first.

3.2. The pragmatic context of Gen 11: 7 is familiar as well. Like other

clauses, the speaker is encouraging the addressee to act as the speaker desires.

The Lord came down to see the city and tower that the human beings
had built. The Lord said, “Since they are one people, and they all have
one language, and this is only the beginning, nothing then that they con-
sider doing will be out of their reach. Let's let us go down and confound
their language there, so that they shall not understand one another's
speech.” So the Lord scattered them from there over the surface of the
whole earth, and they stopped building the city. Accordingly it was called
Babel, because there the Lord confounded the language of the whole
earth and from there the Lord scattered them over the surface of the
whole earth. (Gen 11: 5–9 [

])

The speaker's encouragement is laced with affiliative and goal-oriented strategies. The speech begins with incremental reasons that are intended to compel action (see §§2.3.3, 2.4.2): The first describes a present and factual circumstance (v. 6aαb); the second hints at an escalating trend in the immediate future (v. 6aβ); and, judging the current situation to be very dangerous, the third motivating reason states that the outcome of this situation will be inevitable, immense, negative, and beyond control (v. 6b).1 In aggregate, the reasons that God presents his addressee are

1 See Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (4th ed.; HKAT I/1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &

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